Stonefruit makes a comeback
A Blenheim couple are backing a resurgence of stonefruit growing in Marlborough.
Peter and Kaye Lamb have overseen the planting of 8000 peach, nectarine and plum trees on two properties in Renwick and Benmorven Rd this winter.
The orchards should produce a small crop in 2015 and reach full production by 2017, they say.
Mr Lamb used to manage a stonefruit orchard in Old Renwick Rd and went on to work as a horticulture specialist for CRT and Wrightson in Blenheim.
"As more and more grapes came on, I had the opportunity to move to Australia and develop greenfields orchards on a much bigger scale," he said.
Today he works as a vineyards operations manager for Cloudy Bay Wines, leaving Mrs Lamb who has spent her working life in orchards and vineyards, to focus on their new business Branches Everywhere.
The company started with an advertisement in the Marlborough Express two years ago, looking for people with grapes who wanted to diversify.
With grapes in over-supply and the industry facing a downturn, there were six replies.
Two couples followed through and planted orchards, one owning a vineyard and the other, bare land in Renwick.
The Lambs used knowledge and contacts picked up in Australia to select modern varieties developed and owned by nurseries which would collect royalties on trees sold and income from fruit. The nurseries limited sales of each variety to avoid flooding the market.
To get orchards up and running the couple planted some trees which were flowering this spring and grafted others that looked like sticks in the ground.
Trees would be "solid, low and strong" and open to the sun, Mr Lamb said.
"We can't afford the big, old, tangled trees of the past."
Planted at about 1100 per hectare and pruned to two metres, trees would grow about 25 tonnes of fruit per ha easily picked from two-step plastic ladders.
"Old orchards were about 40 feet (12m) high and you had to climb 10 feet (3m) beyond the top of the ladder to reach fruit," Mrs Lamb said.
Branches Everywhere linked growers to a company that directly supplied supermarkets, however, they were still allowed to sell at the gate, Mr Lamb said.
An advantage of growing stonefruit in Marlborough was existing access to a labour force used to working in vineyards, he said.
- The Marlborough Express